The Great Tool Tray Debate
One of the great controversies of modern times, right behind “what’s the best media to sharpen tools on?” and “why can’t/won’t somebody make great tools for big-box store prices?” is the question of whether or not to include tool trays on a workbench. I have them on mine, but they’re unconventional – they are short and removable, and they live in the middle of the bench, not on the far side. In the article about building the bench, I talked about having a love/hate relationship with tool trays. There are some truly great things about tool trays, and at the same time there are some things that really stink. When the pluses and minuses are at the extreme ends of the spectrum it’s easy to jump on one end or the other and become a zealot for the stuff you like, or want to exterminate the things you don’t care for. My attitude towards tool trays hasn’t changed, but I’ve found some ways to minimize the bad and maximize the good.
The bench in the photo above looks like mine, but it belongs to one of the students who took a bench-building class with me last fall at Kelly Mehler’s woodworking school in Berea, Kentucky. When I teach, I try to get across what I was thinking as I developed the design, and how I adapted things to the way I work. My students were willing to travel to the dark and sometimes scary place called “what was Bob thinking”, and most of them made a change or two to my original design. Many of these changes were improvements, and the benches fit the users like tailor made suits.
Jay sent along these pictures last week, and I especially liked his approach to this particular tool tray. Here’s how he described it: “I customized one of the center tool trays. The two rows of longer slots provides a 1/2″ space, the
one row of shorter slots provides a 1/4” space, for upright tool
holding.I also milled a shallow finger recess in the each end of each tray to make removal easier. You may be a tool tray hater, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the tools you’re working with held safely, right where you need them. And wouldn’t it be nice if you’re having an anti-tool tray day to flip the thing over and pretend it doesn’t exist.